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Message for THE LORD’S DAY MORNING, January 29, 2012
Christian Hope Church of Christ, Plymouth, North Carolina
by Reggie A. Braziel, Minister
We Must Set Our Faces Like Flint
Isaiah 50:4-7 (NKJV)
4 “The Lord God has given Me the tongue of the learned, that I should
know how to speak a word in season to him who is weary.
He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear
To hear as the learned.
5 The Lord God has opened My ear; and I was not rebellious,
Nor did I turn away.
6 I gave My back to those who struck Me, and My cheeks to those who plucked out the beard; I did not hide My face from shame and spitting.
7 “For the Lord God will help Me; therefore I will not be disgraced;
therefore I have set My face like a flint, and I know that I will not be ashamed.
Let us pray.
INTRODUCTIONIllustration: Nero’s Forty Singing Wrestlers When wicked NERO was the emperor of the Roman Empire he had a band of soldiers serving in his army known as “The Emperor’s Singing Wrestlers.” This band was comprised of forty of the biggest, strongest, toughest soldiers in the Roman army. They were most highly skilled soldiers in the world at that time. In our day and time they would be considered to be like a Special Ops Force or Navy Seals.
The sole mission for the Emperors Singing Wrestlers was to track down Christians and bring them back to Rome to be executed. Prior to the executions, these 40 Singing Wrestlers would stand before Nero and chant in unison…….
“We, the wrestlers, wrestle for thee, O Emperor, to win for thee the victory, and from thee, the victor’s crown.” In time Nero sent his band of 40 Singing Wrestlers to faraway Gaul.
Several months later Nero received news he thought he would never hear. Many of his singing wrestlers had accepted Jesus Christ.
Instead of stamping out Christianity they had now joined forces with the Christians.
As you can imagine this news infuriated wicked Nero. He sent a message by Vespasian, the commander of his Roman Army.
The message read: “If there be any of my soldiers who cling to the faith of the Christians, they will be put to death.” By the time Vespasian and his soldiers reached the forty singing wrestlers it was the dead of winter. They were camped along a frozen lake outside of Gaul. Vespasian called the band of forty men together and read Nero’s decree. After reading it, Vespasian said: “Any of you who cling to the Christian faith step forward.” All forty men took two steps forward and stood at attention.
A startled Vespasian said, “For the sake of Nero and your fellow Roman soldiers and countrymen, renounce this belief.” Not a single soldier spoke a word.
Vespasian said, “I will give you until sundown to change your mind.” At sundown, Vespasian called the band of forty together once again. Once again he said, “Any of you who cling to the Christian faith, step forward.” As before, all forty men took two steps forward and stood at attention.
Vespasian said, “You leave me with no choice but to carry out the Emperor’s decree, but I will not have your blood on the hands of my soldiers.” He ordered his soldiers to strip the forty wrestlers of their uniforms. He then ordered the wrestlers to go out to the middle of the frozen lake, where they would die from exposure to the harsh winter’s night.
As the soldiers marched out on to the ice, Vespasian could hear their old familiar chant, only this time they chanted…..
“Forty wrestlers, wrestling for Thee, O Christ, to win for Thee the victory, and from Thee the victor’s crown.” Throughout the cold night, Vespasian and his soldiers sat by the campfire and listened as the chant of the forty wrestlers grew weaker and weaker. As morning approached one lone wrestler made his way off the ice to Vespasian’s campsite to renounce his faith in Christ.
Faintly, but clearly came a chant out of the pre-dawn darkness…..
“Thirty nine wrestlers, wrestling for Thee, O Christ, to win for Thee the victory, and from Thee the victor’s crown.” As the frozen soldiers continued their chant, they looked through the darkness and saw a lone figure coming toward them. It was Vespasian. Stripped of his uniform, he joined them. It was on that frozen lake outside Gaul, that those forty men gave up their lives for the cause of Jesus Christ.
In our text here in Isaiah 50, we find the third of four “Servant Songs” recorded by Isaiah. A Servant Song was a prophecy regarding the Servant, Jesus Christ, that would be fulfilled over 700 years after Isaiah.
This particular “Servant Song” pointed to the terrible suffering Christ would endure prior to and during His crucifixion.
-In verses 4, 5 Isaiah writes about the obedience Christ would demonstrate to His Father’s will.
(I am reminded of the words of the apostle Paul in Philippians 2:8.… And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became OBEDIENT to the point of death, even death on the cross. (NKJV)
Seven hundred years later each Gospel writer would record the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. In the 27th chapter
of his gospel, Matthew wrote:
Jesus knew when He came to this world He was going to endure this terrible suffering and die a cruel death on the cross. How did He respond? Did He respond with fear? Did He turn into a coward? Did He go into hiding? NO!
In VERSE 7, Isaiah reveals what would be in the mind of Christ as He faced this terrible suffering.
Isaiah writes: “For the LORD GOD will help Me;
Therefore I will not be disgraced; therefore I have set my face like flint, and I know I will not be ashamed.
Seven hundred years later, Peter tried to keep Jesus from going to Jerusalem, after Jesus revealed to the apostles what was about to happen to Him there. But Jesus would NOT be detoured from the cross.
Luke 9:51 says, Now it came to pass, when the time had come for Him to be received up, that He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem.” ___________________________________________________________
What Does It Mean “To set one’s face like flint?” _________________________________________________
Flint is a very hard and durable quartz or stone. Because of its hardness and durability, flint has been used by man for thousands of years to make tools, ax heads, arrowheads and even walls for buildings.
So to “set one’s face like flint” means to fix one’s intentions on accomplishing a goal or purpose without being deterred.
Jesus “set His face like flint” toward the cross.
Brothers and sisters, Jesus wasn’t the only one Who “set His face like flint.” This is a characteristic of all people of faith.
-Joshua “set his face like flint” that day when he stood before the whole Israelite assembly and said, “Choose you this day whom you will serve, but as for me and my house, we will serve the LORD.”
-Elijah “set his face like flint” when he stood on Mt. Carmel and courageously proclaimed to the Israelites: “How long will you waver back and forth between two opinions? If the LORD is God, follow Him, if Baal is God, then follow him.”
-Daniel “set his face like flint” when he refused to defile himself with Nebuchadnezzar’s wine and food.
-Shadrach, Meshech and Abednego, “set their faces like flint” when they refused to bow their knees in worship of Nebuchadnezzar’s idol, knowing they would be thrown into the fiery furnace.
-Stephen “set his face like flint” and continued to proclaim his faith in the LORD even as people were stoning to him to death, even going to far as to ask the LORD to forgive his killers.
Oh brothers and sisters, people of FAITH are not to be “mealymouthed, wishy-washy, cowards.” Like Jesus Christ and the great men and women of FAITH before us, you and I must “set our faces like flint” and decisively, resolutely, and whole-heartedly follow the LORD JESUS CHRIST regardless of what the world thinks or says about us.
-Brothers and sisters, it is time that we realize our nation is no longer a Christian nation. This nation has turned her back on God and the hostility and animosity toward anything to do with Christianity is only going to increase in the coming days.
That means the “days of closet Christianity” are over. that means we who are God’s people must “set our faces like flint” and like those “Forty Singing Wrestlers” of Nero, we must take our stand for the LORD JESUS CHRIST, regardless of the COST or the CONSEQUENCES!
The Fellowship Of The Unashamed (Dr. Bob Moorehead, from his book "Words Aptly Spoken")
In the year 162 A.D., POLYCARP, the Bishop of Smyrna, was captured and brought before the Roman Procounsel.
The Procounsel commanded Polycarp to denounce his faith in Jesus Christ and he would be set free.
Polycarp responded, “Eighty and six years have I served Him, and He never once has wronged me; how then shall I blaspheme my King who saved me?
Having “set his face like flint” and refusing to denounce His LORD, Polycarp was burned alive at the stake.
****************************************************** It has been said, “For one to find the greatest meaning in life, he must have a cause worth living or dying for.” I ask you this morning, what greater cause is there to live or die for than the cause of Jesus Christ?
As we leave this assembly this morning, let us leave here with our “faces set like flint.”
“Sixty wrestlers, wrestling for Thee, O Christ, to win for Thee the victory, and from Thee the victor’s crown!” How can the Servant obey and not turn back when the path he is told to walk down is so hard? The Lord "helps" him. Although the Servant exposes himself to humiliation of the worst kind, because of the Lord’s help he nevertheless is not disgraced (the words translated "humiliation" in verse 5 and "disgraced" in verse 7 are related words). Because of the Lord’s help, he has set his face "like flint"—he is resolute in the face of opposition.
Because of the Lord’s help, he knows that he will not be ashamed.
How specifically does the Lord help him? The Lord, who he recognizes as near to him, "vindicates" him. This is a courtroom term for a courtroom scene. In verses 7 and 8 the Servant challenges his opponents, with the Lord serving as judge. Those who have struck his back, plucked out his beard and spit on him are invited to present their case. The Servant has no problem inviting his enemies to "draw near" because he knows that the Lord, who is near, will rule in his favor.
His enemies would condemn him, but they will fail. Unlike the Servant, who sets his face like flint, the enemies will "wear out like a garment; the moth will eat them." Their failure will be gradual and almost imperceptible but certain nevertheless. They don’t even have the staying power to present their case, because they come to the knowledge that they have none to present and that the Lord will not vindicate them.
Jesus, the Servant of the Lord, knew that the Lord God would help him; he knew that the Lord God would vindicate him. Therefore, he set his face like flint. He "set his face to go to Jerusalem" and face his accusers (Luke 9:51). He submitted to the authorities who put him on trial and condemned him. Jesus said very little at his trial. The only words Matthew records him as saying are these, spoken to the high priest and the Sanhedrin, in response to the question whether he was the Messiah: "You have said it yourself;
nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven" (Matthew 26:64). Those words were enough to condemn him, for he claimed that he was the Son of Man (Daniel 7:13-14), the representative of the true people of God, and that he would be vindicated by God. The authorities stood up to Jesus in their makeshift courtroom, but they don’t stand a chance in God’s courtroom, the only one that counts, and Jesus knew it.